Dozens of Air New Zealand passenger bags left behind in New York by new direct service

Air New Zealand’s first direct flight between Auckland and New York is preparing to take off. Video / Stephanie Holmes

Baggage issues have hit Air New Zealand’s recently launched direct New York NZ1 service, with dozens of passengers wondering where their bags were.

About 40 passengers returning from JFK were left without luggage after a decision by the carrier to offload excess baggage.

The plane which took off from John F Kennedy International at 11:20 p.m. local time landed shortly before 8:30 a.m. this morning.

The seventeen-and-a-half-year trip is the longest on Air New Zealand and its fleet of 787 Dreamliners, further extended by a delay at AKL.

A Hamilton-based passenger and her husband were among about 50 passengers who had been waiting for an hour to be told their luggage had been forgotten.

“Another passenger must have told us that our bags weren’t on the flight,” she said.

Returning from a ten-day vacation in the United States, they said there were problems checking luggage and finding tickets at JFK, which contradicted the hype around the inaugural service.

“We were greeted in Auckland by media celebrating the success of the route, but things were a mess apart from the flight itself.”

A late change to accommodate a sports team believed to be the Jamaican national netball team, added to the problems of the maiden flight.

The women’s netball team are said to have had passport issues ahead of fixtures in Auckland this week, with half the squad being rebooked to fly on Monday.

Air New Zealand chief operating officer Alex Marren said some bags were left on the east coast due to adverse flying conditions.

“Unfortunately, due to additional fuel requirements due to inclement weather, some customer bags could not be loaded in New York and we are moving them to New Zealand as soon as possible,” she said.

Air New Zealand did not comment on the priority given to baggage for offloading.

Air New Zealand's 787-9 Dreamliner was forced to unload its baggage en route to JFK due to adverse weather conditions.  Photo/Brett Phibbs
Air New Zealand’s 787-9 Dreamliner was forced to unload its baggage en route to JFK due to adverse weather conditions. Photo/Brett Phibbs

The luggage was already on its way back to New Zealand but could take up to two days to be reunited with the owners.

“We are in contact with customers to update and reunite them with their bags. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.”

JFK to AKL: the longest leg

The new US service launched on Saturday, with NZ2 being Air New Zealand’s first direct service to the US East Coast.

However, at 5:35 p.m., the return leg of the NZ1 trip is an hour and a half longer than the eastbound flight. This firmly places it as the fourth longest flight in the world.

Covering 15,343 kilometers in just under 18 hours, the service to Auckland faces different weather conditions than the JFK route.

An Air New Zealand spokesperson said the flight to Auckland is always longer due to prevailing headwinds, but in this case the flight path needed to avoid a weather system.

It was a bad start for the maiden flight, said Met Service meteorologist Lewis Ferris, but flight planners had to take known subtropical jet streams into account.

“It won’t always have the same impact on flights as it can fluctuate in strength and position, but it’s a semi-permanent feature.”

Delays from New York might be a common occurrence.

It could be a fly in the ointment for ambitions to make Auckland a new hub for flights to the Atlantic Sea.

Last month, Qantas announced that it would launch its own JFK AKL direct service from June next year.

“We believe this route will be very popular with Australians given the ability to connect via Auckland and it will also give New Zealanders more choice,” said Australian airline CEO Alan Joyce.

However, Qantas passengers will also face the long leg back.

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